April 23, 2010

Two Recipes for Thin Syrup (without and with refined sugar)

There are tons of recipes for beekeeping on the web and I don't mean to reinvent the wheel; I'm just trying to use up stuff I have around the house. Both recipes below make 1:1 syrup but have different proposed uses.
RECIPE 1: syrup without refined sugar
Stir together in a quart-size Mason jar:
1 part honey (10 oz.)
2 parts water (20 oz.)
If your honey is crystallized, use hot water to fully dissolve it. If your honey is really dry, feel free to use up to 3 parts water. The 1:3 ratio very closely simulates natural nectar but if the bees don't take it down quickly, it is more apt to mold. Adding a few drops of anise essential oil may convince your bees to eat. 

RECIPE 2: made with refined sugar
Heat together to make a light syrup:
2 c. water
2 c. granulated white sugar

Stir together then add to the no-longer hot but still warm syrup:
1/16 t. liquid lecithin (don't bother trying granular lecithin, it won't work)
16-30 drops spearmint oil
12-20 drops lemongrass oil
Use the lesser amount of oil to initiate Spring buildup or to stimulate brood reading, especially of newly installed swarms/packages/nucs. Use the greater amount to improve colony health against disease and mite infestation.

Makes 1 quart of 1:1 syrup.

ON FRUCTOSE: This recipe scales up. When making a large batch, replacing some white sugar with fructose can help prevent crystallization.

ON ESSENTIAL OILS: They will emulsify in warm syrup better than cold. Too hot will volatilize the EOs. Brood with these particular essential oils in their bodies are supposedly less palatable to the Varroa mite, so including them is said to inoculate the next generation of bees against them. Aside from purported mite control, a benefit to using any essential oil is that they are natural preservatives. Note that the lowered pH inhibits – not prevents – fermentation of the syrup. Thin syrup just doesn't have high enough a sugar concentration to prevent fermentation.

WHY 1:1:
1:1 or light syrup is easy to slurp up for immediate use by the bees. Heavy syrup, 2 parts sugar to 1 par water (or 2:1) is intended for them to store. By giving them a drier syrup in the fall, we save them the work to fanning off the water in preparation for winter.

When: Spring through Summer, anytime a colony is light and there is not a honey flow. Thin nectar molds readily in warm weather. Make small batches, or make a big one and store extra jars in the fridge.

How Long: When feeding bees, the usual recommendation is to feed until a) they stop taking it or b) you see them capping stores. These actions indicate that natural resources are available.

• If you need to feed carbohydrate (syrup) it is probably a good idea to feed protein (pollen).
• For comb building to occur, in addition to a nectar flow you'll need a population of young bees to eat it, and they'll need warmth to work the wax they produce. In other words, don't expect to see building in early spring or late fall no matter how much you feed.
• Thin syrup may be interpreted as a nectar flow and may stimulate brood rearing. Don't take it away from your bees too early or they could have lots of brood to feed and, without a natural flow, those bees will go hungry. Don't leave the feeder in the hive too long, though. You don't want them storing syrup. If you're not opposed to it, food coloring in the syrup can help you see if the bees are storing it.

Feeder Equipment: a hivetop feeder enables a Warré colony to take the syrup quickly. For a TBH, use a Boardman feeder inside the hive.

MORE INTERESTING READING: Feeding Bees Sugar SyrupFeeding Bees Nectar Subsitutes


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